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About African Trade Beads


Made in Europe since the fifteenth century and used as money to trade for gold, ivory, spices, palm oil, and even slaves, these antique Venetian millefiori and other fancy beads, (each unique and hand made), have been artfully spaced and put together to produce jewelry which enhances each beads inherent beauty. Millefiori is an Italian word meaning "a thousand flowers". Although these beads are known as millefiori in this country, in Venice, (and more specifically Murano where they were made), they are mainly known by the name mosaic. The many factors involved in making a millefiori bead, not to mention the size and shape, make the possibilities for this bead virtually limitless. This great variety always leaves room for exciting new discoveries. It seems as if the West Coast of Africa absorbed practically the whole production of millefiori beads, and we do not know for sure if the story that they were used as ballast on ships bound for Africa is true, but it would actually make sense.

Chevron Trade Bead

Rare Large Antique Chevron Necklace
Chief's necklace 26" continuous strand  $1350.00

   A sign of wealth, these beads were often buried with their native owners, and have been known to come up in the sands of the desert. Most of these beads have no equal in todays marketplace. One might only imagine the interesting history and stories these beads would tell if they could only talk. Many of the pieces you will see on this site will also incorporate other types of contemporary and antique bead spacers, or center pieces, of silver, stone, wood, or other materials to enhance the beauty of the particular piece. Each piece is unique.

A piece of art that did indeed,
Arise from just a bit of glass, a sort of seed,
A piece of art that brought much greed,
Bound forever to succeed,
Yet truly never ever freed,
And ended in a pile of bones,
With but a lonely centipede.

This same designer puts words together to create beautiful thoughtful and humorous quotations in the form of poetry and prose.(Copyright 1998)

From Florence to Murano,
Venice and to Rome,
In days of old and even now,
It was where glass had made its home.

They'd heat and melt and mold it,
And turn it to a lovely shape,
And also turn it into beads,
Around a woman's neck to drape.

A myriad colors and patterns intertwined,
With layers of molten glass,
Were shipped around the world in mass,
In trade for tea and spices,
And everything that nice was,
And even human slaves,
Across vast seas were passed.

The formation of these lovely beads,
It surely was an art,
And it was in Italy years ago,
These antiquated beads,
Received their very start.

They're awesome and they make some wince,
And they never have been equaled since,
And there's no one out there to convince,
That they're no others like them in the land,
And that each of them was made by hand.

Most landed first in Africa,
Then back into the states they came,
Where they've become much more appreciated,
And gained their lasting fame.

As African trade beads they are known,
Regardless where they first were sewn,
And have reached a few collectors,
Who've made them now their own.

So the more you know and the more you read,
When you see them you will know they're freed,
And realize as beauty goes,
There's nothing like an antique bead.

Rising from the sands of time,
There comes some glass, there comes a rhyme.

Although we can not hear it,
It was played a million times,
And told of suffering and hardship,
A million paradigms.

These little bits of molten glass,
Were not intended to harass,
But reached a far off place,
Oft traded for a colored face,
Which took us to some deep crevasse.

Freed now from the bloody sand,
They rest in but another hand,
To beautify as had been planned,
Their music from a different band.

So when you look upon a bead,
Remember that which did precede,
Remember that and please take heed,
Or mankind will be never freed.

CLICK HERE to read more of his poetry or quotes or to order his books.


Mail in Order | About African Trade Beads | Contact Information